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Scarlet Street

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Scarlet Street

Published 1945

German director Fritz Lang is best known for the highly influential films from relatively early in his career, especially Metropolis (1927) and M (1931).
But he also had a brief Hollywood heyday during the mid 1940s, when he made some of his best films.

Scarlet Street has been claimed by film noir.
This attribution is understandable.
The lighting is dark, with heavy use of shadows.
The characters are all shady as well.
Kitty is certainly a femme fatale, although hints are dropped that she is an inherently decent person who has become completely corrupted by Johnny.
Being the most naive, Robinson is also the most sympathetic.
But even he eventually turns to crime to fulfill his passions.

But while Scarlet Street has elements of film noir, it is in reality a black comedy.
While Robinson plays it straight throughout, Bennett and Duryea camp it up marvelously.
Bennett laughs when Robinson claims to be a painter: "And here I had you pegged as a cashier!" She also has to suppress laughter when Robinson reveals that he is married, and shock when Duryea passes her off as the mysterious painter.

Run time 103 min
Producer Fritz Lang, Walter Wanger
Production Company Universal Pictures
Audio/Visual sound, black & white
Contact Information


Reviewer: eggbone - favorite - February 20, 2016
Subject: NOT NOIR
I am not sure how this weas classified as film noir, but I can not see it. At best, this is a "B" comedy. Edward G. plays a good role, as expected, as do Joan Bennett and Dan Dueyea, though their roles are vdry predictable. I struggled through about 45 minutes and had to turn it off. This is a forgetable Fritz Lang film.
Reviewer: Ellinore - favoritefavoritefavorite - June 14, 2015
Subject: Not a Favorite
I agree that the story does not fit completely with "film noir"; however I also do not find it a "black comedy". Personally, I did not like it. There are a couple of plots that are so totally predictable, that as it unfolds it becomes pretty boring. The opening conversation here pretty much told you what the story was, and the bad judgments that followed predicted the outcome.. this ranks up there with the innocent man in a nightmare of blame. I can't watch these to the end.. I saw Scarlett Street when I was young and they let all ages in all films (not that they don't now anyway)..didn't like it then, didn't like it now. I gave it 3 stars simply because of the remarkable cast. Worth watching but only if you are one of the stars obsessive fans.
Reviewer: Kodachrome - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 27, 2010
Subject: Great film
What can I add to what has already been said by the previous reviewers?

A superb story and outstanding execution by the actors, make this an engaging play. The viewer is drawn into the movie, much as Chris is taken in by kitty's scheming.

Dan Duryea plays the villain perfectly. I enjoyed seeing one of my favorite actors, Byron Foulger, in a bit part.

One of the better offerings here.

5 stars and no regrets.
Reviewer: Dr Feel Rotten - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 27, 2010
Subject: Edward G Robinson
While he is better known as the tough gangster type I always thought he played the meager man of modest means far better and this is one prime example. To bad they broke the mold when Robinson passed along. He was a great actor. I can only wonder the roles he might have played in today's cinema.
Reviewer: edwardjuarez - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 7, 2010
Subject: Film noob
Loved this movie!!!!
Reviewer: MadHatMike - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 23, 2010
Subject: Great movie, real downer, no redemption!
I love this movie. It teases you into sympathy for a couple of characters, then, gradually, mind you, pulls the rug from under them so they spill into the abyss along with the all the rest... Could have ended it differently perhaps, with a glint of hope from the salvation army which makes a cameo of sorts... but that would have been the easy way out?
Reviewer: yuosif zia canta - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 20, 2010
Subject: great agtor
edward g robbinson another great role this man is agreat agtor and such men never dies
Reviewer: patt17 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 6, 2010
A stunning, mesmerizing film with the highest standards of film making on all levels - superb direction, acting, pacing, story, script... An absolutely brilliant, unnerving, unheralded gem. Any reviewer who gives it less than 4 or 5 stars either misses the point, has an agenda or just flat out doesn't know greatness when they see it (or maybe recognizes themselves somewhere in the film, hmm?). Adapted to a play, with the right casting, it would be a multi-Tony Award winner on Broadway, easy.
Reviewer: Albert Schlef - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 5, 2010
Subject: ok
This film is "ok". The female lead does an excellent immitation of "white trash". Lacking class. Seeing this hand-bag of hers all the time.
Reviewer: babe917 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 31, 2009
Subject: EXCELLENT!!
WOW WHAT A MOVIE!! loved it!!! i've only seen edward g. in gangster movies, never in a movie like this! i love his movies, but i didn't see this side to his acting before, the softer side!

this movie doesn't disappoint! its excellent! a great film & a MUST SEE!
Reviewer: matt1900 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 14, 2009
Subject: great
I really enjoyed this film. I had never known of it until I found it on the archives. I would highly recommend it . Great story and great acting . I thought the pictures were actually done by Edward G since he was known as a lover of art. But they were done by a fellow in the studio art department by the name of John Decker. I down loaded the mpeg2 file and burned it to DVD and watched it on the TV. Picture and audio were OK.
Reviewer: keygrip - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 29, 2009
Subject: two thumbs up
This is fine entertainment from 3 stars on top of their game and put through their paces by a quality director with the benefit of a cracking script.
With all that going for it,the film couldn't fail to deliver the goods and doesn't.
Reviewer: Budro - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 1, 2009
Subject: To poor slobs.
Edward G. Robinson and Charles Lawton were two great masculine actors who were cursed with ugly bodies. It was simply impossible to make them appear manly. Yet, Lawton in Mutiny On The Bounty and Robinson in Seawolf showed their manly spirits so much that you could forget that they were just plain fat little men. They were both superb actors.

In this movie, Robinson stole the show. Without his great performance, this movie would not have been worth watching.
Reviewer: airann - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 26, 2008
Subject: Great Film
I like Robinson yet I had never heard of the film or producer. I am so glad I gave it a shot. I loved the movie.

I was drawn in further with every 'Oh, No' portions in the story.
Reviewer: ktscarlett - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 30, 2008
Subject: Maybe the most amazing Fritz Lang?
Sure, Metropolis will knock your socks off. Sure, 'M' is a moody thriler. But there's nothing really like Scarlet Street. Part screwball comedy, part film noir psycho thriller. Sheer genius, beautiful cinematography by Milton Krasner. Edward G. Robinson gets to show his true colours as an art lover, too. Brilliant!
Reviewer: horseoftroy - favoritefavorite - October 12, 2008
Subject: american imperialism
this is not a bad film by any means, but it is such a subtle cut at america's willingness to indulge itself in cronyism and self worship, that the point is nearly lost.

robinson is the victim of the banking system and the police force. his one attempt at finding himself is wrapped up in a woman for whom violence is the only answer.

not only do these charactors not exist as shown in real life, but the boozing policeman on the boat to the banana republics should have stayed even if banana oil was the only salve for him when his rediculous patch irritated his face.

the only positive part of the movie was the great summation by robinson, the rest of the film only serves to inspire a morbid disstrust of hollywood, knowing that lang had at least at one time the capability to make a great film.

i would call this film therefore german expressionism antedating the division of germany into east and west, and leave the next person to decide if america's umbrella is a broken hope or a russia more dismal than russia itself with money, as those seem to be the only choices offered.
Reviewer: Rybak - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 14, 2008
Subject: Fantastic
Great Acting by Edward G. Robinson. Fritz Lang directed in a style, which is more than only a film noir. It is a film noir mixed with German Film of the Twenties. Let's say: Murnau meets film noir.
Reviewer: Moonbat - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 6, 2007
Subject: Yipes!
I agree that this film is black comedy and not film noir.

Like usual, I couldn't see the whole Mpeg1 movie, because it stopped playing before the end.

I loved the way that Joan Bennett flicked her cigarettes across the room. She has a great sarcastic voice too. I want to see more of her movies.
Reviewer: longhook - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 11, 2007
Subject: Master piece!
Chris wanted to be a creator, but finally he either destroy his self and his love. Scarlet Street is a great reflexion about the emotion dictatorship.
Reviewer: Pruss - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 1, 2006
Subject: excellent
While this isn't M, it's really very good, and very enjoyable, unpredictable, and raising interesting questions--good filmmaking by and large, with some excellent performances. I had a marvellous time the first time I watched it, and it stood up OK to a repeat viewing a couple of weeks later.

The ending could have been speeded up--there was too much hammering home of the point.
Reviewer: wilbrifar - favorite - March 28, 2006
Subject: same old same old
To the person below talking about the encoding problem: I know I'll be accused of being an ingrate for bringing this up, but I've found that you'll encounter these kinds of problems on just about anything that says it's posted by Once in a while could be a mistake, but it's starting to seem like deliberate mischief. There's no way to rip a dvd and have it accidentally wind up the wrong resolution or format. You have to do it on purpose. I've learned to avoid anything posted by k-otic, and I advise anyone who wishes to burn these movies to dvd to do the same. It's not worth the hours it takes to try and re-encode rubbish.
Reviewer: moxey - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 21, 2006
Subject: Edward G
great little movie.
hard to stop watching because you will want to see what happens this one viewers opinion,the three main characters got exactly what they deserved or were doomed to.
a man with no real purpose or will, a woman with no redeeming character and her boyfriend who sees no one higher than himself.
in the end you feel compassion for none of the characters.
Reviewer: MrMovie - favorite - February 16, 2006
Subject: Not in NTSC Format
The MPEG1 is in PAL and the MPEG2 has some kind of double layered audio that is not compatible with the NTSC format.
Reviewer: karlom - favoritefavoritefavorite - January 1, 2006
Subject: A well made, but reactionary film!
A well made film. But once again the politics of Mr. Lang get in the way of entertainment.
In Metropolis the working class is portrayed as so dumb, that theyd leave behind their children and stop the water pumps of the city to make revolution. Hence the only desirable is to leave politics to the master race of the elite only that the elite should also let itself be lead by heart.
In M Eine Stadt sucht einen M¶rder Lang lets a mob propose to rot out, exterminate an obviously insane child murder an attitude that would come in handy only to years after the film was made when the Nazis came to power.
Now in Scarlet Street we again meet petty criminals who are so unsympathetic and seemingly unchangeable in their ways, that their death is not really a sad thing. The main character suffers of getting away with murder, because in his heart (sic) there is a little court room that will not leave him alone. Has the bourgeois criminal justice system ever been deduced more directly from human nature?
As mentioned in the beginning, Lang knows how to make films. But his extremely reactionary outlook prevent the movies from being more entertaining than, say, Top Gun.
Reviewer: terracesider - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 9, 2005
Subject: Expressionism.
To the comments already made I'd only add two observations.

That loosley used term "film noir" is applied to all manner of films, but more accurately it's a synonym for Expressionsim and this is a quality example of the Expressionist genre froma master director.

This film is evidence, if it is needed, that Robinson is a far better actor than he is sometimes given credit for.
Reviewer: manavkaushik - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 24, 2005
Subject: as in "Friends" OH MY G...O...D !!!!!!!!!!
What a masterpiece by Fritz! The unforgettable plot, tight script, the impressive dialogues, super performances, great direction and specifically the incredible cinematography.

Believe me, the movie was a huge success. And the directors, writers even the actors learnt a lot from it. If "Cendrella" has been made all over the world several times so was this film which worked as a source of inspiration. I remember an Indian flick made in India titled "Bewafa" starring Ashok Kumar, famous actor/director/writer/producer Raj Kapur and Nargis Dutt known as Lady in White - all big stars worked in it.

Back to "Scarlet..." - download it now. And before you sit to watch it - make sure you are now 100 percent free. THIS FILM WOULD NOT PERMIT YOU TO GET UP EVEN FOR A SECOND. ITS NOT MERELY A FILM TO WATCH - ITS A FILM TO STUDY.

Enjoy !!!

manavkaushik at hotmail.
Reviewer: Tamlin - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 24, 2005
Subject: Appearances can be deceiving
I'd had written a few comments, but Max M seems to covered the bases and I agree with him. It's an excellent film, one that could only stem from a through knowledge and experience of humanity. When you come across a woman who can *only* experience sexual stimuation through pain and neglect - this is the stuff of great tragedy and yet, as in the case of Marilyn Monroe for instance the world often doesn't notice.
I jestfully compare it to that travesty "Pretty Woman" where in real life after the hooker has been "broken" the Richard Gere character would say "Look I have some business associates coming over and i want you to be very nice to them. Do whatever they want."
Such pain can never be cured - all you can do is distance yourself.
Reviewer: Danial - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 19, 2005
Subject: My first taste of Robinson and Bennett
And I want more. This is, hands down, the best movie I have found so far at the Archive. The interaction between the two principals was award-winning material.
Reviewer: max_von_mayerling - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 13, 2005
Subject: A Masterpiece about FAKES and FRAMES.
This is a witty parable of deception, double-crosses, and guilt. Edward G. Robinson plays a frustrated artist working as a cashier, aptly named Chris Cross (as the double-crossing characters themselves observe). True to the noir genre, Robinson gets lost after a party given in his honor (itself a little satire on mores and class in America), and (thanks to a little Dutch courage), rescues a prostitute being assaulted (brutally beaten and kicked) under her streetlamp by her pimp. This is a superb little scene, but the movie is so studded with them, it has to be viewed more than once to be appreciated as it deserves. Robinson has just observed, thinking of the bosss date at the party, that hes never known what its like to be loved by a young girl like that. Well, take a good look! Seeing the beating, he rushes toward the couple, accidentally knocks Johnny to the ground, raises his arm to protect himself, and lowers it slowly as he beholds, instead of the expected assailant, the beautiful girl as the elevated roars by unseen overhead, signaling the passing of danger, or perhaps its arrival. Really brilliant, because everything is working, and theres a lot there, and its totally cinematic (so what am I going on for?).

In this art work the art works are masterpieces and the people are fakes. They also tend to be creeps, partly because theyre imitating the movies, like Johnny for instance, who claims he could become a movie star because all they do is act tough and shove girls in the face.

That everyone is playing a part (Robinson pretends to be a successful artist, Kitty an actress) is complicated by the probability that at key points Robinson is playing HIMSELF and wants us to know it. When Kitty, an ignorant whore, natters on about some little painting worth $50,000, by some guy called Ce-ce-, Robinson helps her out. Cezanne? Id like to own that painting! He probably did. According to Ephraim Katz in his Film Encyclopedia, Edward G. Robinson owned one of the largest private art collections in the world. He also had to give it up, as part of a divorce settlement. So the film is prescient, as well as autobiographical.

The film has many such moments that appeal to contemporary pomo sensibilities as metafictional and self-referential, although I suspect that Lang would have laughed at intellectualizing. A couple more examples any way: Robinson begs to paint Kitty, and she offers him her foot to do her toe-nails. Johnny ask Kitty if Robinson isnt a phony, and Kitty replies that hes too dumb to be a phony. This resonates with Robinsons paintings they resemble primitives and lack perspective, like Robinsons character, which is childish in the extreme, totally lacking in perspective, as when he thinks the young and beautiful Kitty can love him, an ugly old man, etc. Nonetheless, theyre bought by the art world, as is Robinson himself, or at least his story, by the real world, as we discover later.

One thing about the plot. Chance plays a significant part in such movies, and underlines the arbitrariness and screwedupness of life. The danger is that it can appear too contrived, not like life at all but too much like art. The reappearance of Robinsons shrewish wifes first husband runs such a risk, but its saved from looking shallow and contrived by introducing an element of fairy-tale, which given the genre immediately turns to horror. Its as if the movie is saying (should I say Lang is saying?) that when we finally think our way is clear, think there are no more obstacles, we can get what we want that is when were most dangerous, because that is when were most deluded.

For all the films morality, or perhaps because of it, Im left feeling ambivalent about the characters. Does anyone GET what he or she deserves? And the ancillary question: does anyone GIVE what he deserves? Which is not to say I like anyone in this movie. I just LOVE the movie though.

P.S. The intro to this movie, really to Fritz Lang, seems a bit slighting to me.
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